Do prune this…Don’t prune that

2013-05-09 10.12.37

Spring will be here before we know it. With all the warm weather lately, it is hard to remember that spring has not already sprung in Southeast Nebraska. But, with the warmer weather, there are a few things we can do in our landscapes and a few things we should avoid.

Don’t prune spring blooming shrubs this time of the year. Plants such as lilac, forsythia, spring blooming spirea, and some hydrangeas produce flowers in the fall of the previous year to bloom early in the spring. If you prune these plants now, you will cut of the flower buds and not have those flowers to enjoy this spring. So avoid pruning those shrubs in the spring. Spring blooming shrubs should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming in the spring. This will allow for the best growth of the plant and for best flowering each year.

Forsythia-Richard Elzey, Flickr

Forsythia Flickr image courtesy of Richard Elzey per CC license

Prune trees this time of the year. February and March are the best months of the year to prune deciduous and fruit trees. It is best to prune these trees during the winter months because it doesn’t affect fruiting that occurs in the spring and it allows the tree to seal up the wound quickly in the spring when growth resumes. It is also easier to see areas that need to be pruned in the winter months. You can see where branches are crossing or rubbing and where the branches are too dense. In addition, pruning in the late winter helps reduce the transmission of different diseases that aren’t active. However, it is best to avoid pruning maple, willow, poplar, birch, hackberry, Kentucky coffeetree, black walnut, honeylocust, and elm due to the high sap flow they have in the spring. Freshly cut wounds this time of year will cause the tree to “bleed” or have excessive sap flow out of the wounds. They are best pruned in the late summer to early fall to avoid sap flow.

Don’t uncover perennials yet. It is still winter, for a few more weeks. Many of our perennials are getting confused with the weather lately and some are starting to green up already. Tulips, Iris, and peonies are starting to emerge and crocus are blooming already. However, if you pull the winter mulch back from these plants or remove the plant material that was left on the plants through the winter, you will be exposing the plant to cold temperatures and removing its protection. The plant will have better survival and less winterkill if you leave them covered through the winter months.

Plan your gardens for the spring. Late winter is a great time to plan what you will plant in your vegetable gardens so you can format your plan to know what you have space for and to ensure that you move your crops around from year to year. This will also help you decide what seeds to start indoors. Mid-February through March is a good time to start the seeds of your chosen warm season crops indoors. Make sure that you have them in a warm location with 14-16 hours of light on them everyday.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood

Crabgrass photo is courtesy of Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Don’t use pre-emergent herbicides for crabgrass yet. The soil temperatures have been at an average of 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 7 days. Even as warm as it has been, crabgrass has not yet begun to germinate. If the temperatures continue at this pace, it will probably germinate early, but we still have a couple of weeks before we need to get the pre-emergent herbicides on. Remember, crabgrass germinates at 55-60 degree soil temperatures, so we still have a bit of warming up to do.

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